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Shifter Replacement

Replacing a broken or damaged shifter isn't that hard. It's re-routing the cable and adjusting the derailleur that stops most home mechanics from tackling this job at home. Fortunately, we give you information about both of these secondary tasks: see our section on cable replacement and tuning the front and rear derailleurs.

First, you need to get your grip out of the way. This SHOULD take some work. (If the grip pulls off easily, it means the rubber is deteriorating, and it's time for a new grip.)

Use a butter knife to raise up the inside edge of the grip. Pour some water down into the grip.

Begin rotating the grip until it breaks free and slides off.

Helpful hint: If you ride a long time in the rain, you may notice your grips become sloppy -- rotating freely around the handlebar. If you want those grips to stay put, slide them using lacquer as your "lube." Once they dry, they're going nowhere. (Of course, you'll have to CUT them off if you need to take off shifters or brakes in the future.)

If you only need to replace the rubber handgrip on a grip-shifter, you don't need to loosen the shifter mechanism itself. Dampen the grip, then (while holding the shifting drum inside the housing with your other hand) pull it off the rotor. Slide the new grip on, and you're done.

To remove the old shifter from the handlebar, find the hex bolt that tightens the clamp.

Loosen the bolt until the shifter slides around on the handlebar. You don't need to remove the bolt.

Now slide the shifter off of the handlebar. There should be enough cable to reach if you rotate your handlebar in the direction that loosens the cable.

Either before or after you take the shifter off of the handlebar, you can take the cable out of the shifting mechanism. How you do this depends on the type of shifter.

Index Shifter with access port: Some shifters have a cable-access port. For example, this XTR shifter has a plastic plug that lets you get at the cable end.

Unscrew the cap, and you'll see a disc that rotates to pull on the cable.

Shift into the smallest cog or chainring (where the cable will be the most loose). You'll see the end of a cable-barrel rotate into view.

Shove back on the cable so the barrel comes out of the shifter mechanism. Grab the barrel and pull the cable through.

Index Shifter without access port: Click the shifter down into the smallest cog or chainring. Unscrew the bolts on the underside of the shifter. You may need a jeweler's screwdriver.

(In most cases, removing the bolts on the gear indicator gauge won't expose the cable housing. But if you can't see any other way to disassemble the shifting unit, try it.)

Once the you're into the guts of the unit, push back gently on the cable until the barrel comes out of the retainer. Now grab the barrel and pull the cable out.

Grip Shifter: While pulling the shifting knob away from the body of the shifter, rotate until you find the position where the shifting knob will pull away from the housing.
Push backwards on the cable to pop the barrel out of the shifting grip. Take a long look at the path of the cable, so you can put the new cable back on the same course.

Grab the barrel and pull the cable out of the shifter.

Undo the cable clamp on the derailleur, so the cable slides freely.

Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, gently squeeze the cable cap on the sides opposite the crimp-marks. When the cable cap "rounds up" and rotates on the cable, slide it off.

Take the cable apart, keeping things in order. You'll need to put each section of housing, and each housing end-cap, right back where it was originally.

Now pull the cable out through the shifting mechanism.

Put the cable into the new shifter. (Usually, if you're replacing a shifter, it's best to replace the cable and cable housing with new. See our section on new cables.)

Slide the shifter onto the handlebar and rotate it to the same position it had previously. Tighten it down with the hex bolt.

Now route the cable back to the derailleur, replacing each section of housing. Draw the cable tight and secure it by tightening the bolt on the clamp at the derailleur. Replace the cable-cap and crimp it tight onto the cable.

Now you'll need to adjust the cable tightness on the derailleur. See our section on tuning front and rear derailleurs.

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